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Crime Beat

Crime cut in Marina, one of safest areas, says SFPD Northern Station captain after year at helm

Shortly after newly promoted Capt. John Jaimerena took command of the Northern Police District over a year ago, a newsletter announced his goals of “reducing both violent and property crimes. …” He believes those goals were met but continues to seek less crime.

“We had a nice reduction in violent crime. … We made great burglary arrests. … We had a lot of help from the community,” he said in an interview marking his anniversary as Northern commander.

Comparing 2015 with 2016, he reported declines in forcible rapes from 6 to 3 and arsons from 11 to 4 in the Northern District’s Marina subdistrict (Marina Green to Vallejo Street and the Presidio to Gough Street).

He took pride in an almost one-third drop in burglaries, commercial and residential, from 231 to 158 — the fewest in five years. Most burglars are serial perpetrators, so one arrest may prevent 10 burglaries, Jaimerena pointed out.

How did police catch them? They asked community meeting attendees to call when seeing anything suspicious. Moreover, a plainclothes, undercover team followed known burglars and also staked out at spots where break-ins had increased.

Last summer a burglar entered each of three similar homes in lower Pacific Heights by breaking a window in a garage door. The team lay in wait and pounced. Police then visited homes, advising owners to cover door buttons.

The subdistrict had modest declines in general theft, from 1,418 to 1,272 (-10 percent); and motor vehicle theft, from 150 to 144 (-4 percent). However, robbery there barely changed, from 39 to 40; and aggravated assault — in “bar fights” — rose from 25 to 34.

No homicides have occurred there for years. “It’s one of the safest places in the city,” Jaimerena observed. The whole Northern District (including Pacific Heights, Western Addition, Hayes Valley, Van Ness/Civic Center) had seven homicides in 2016.

CAR BURGLARIES

When Captain Jaimerena arrived, in February 2016, the community cried, “Stop car break-ins!” So he concentrated on them.

“Ninety percent of the focus of our street crimes team is car break-ins,” said Jaimerena. Eight patrolmen and two sergeants cover the whole district and “day in, day out, they’re arresting car burglars. Three hot spots are the Palace of Fine Arts, Japantown, and Alamo Square,” all tourist destinations.

He reported about 4,000 motor vehicle burglaries in 2016, no worse than in 2015. (A figure was unavailable. The district expanded in summer 2015.) The citywide 2016 total was about 24,000, down 10 percent from 2015.

“It’s a very popular crime right now … not just in San Francisco. It’s in Oakland, San Mateo … it’s all over.”

Car burglaries attract many who formerly committed crimes with tougher penalties, for example, robbery. Like house burglars, most car burglars caught here are repeaters. In February on California Street, the team arrested a man for car burglary for the second time in three weeks. His record showed many similar arrests.

The team works with a district attorney at the Northern Station. She handles mainly car burglaries, taking the cases to trial. The district finds good cooperation from city prosecutors overall.

APRIL 13 MEETING

“My policing philosophy mirrors that of the SFPD,” Jaimerena wrote in 2016, “by working to keep an open communication with the community to best determine policies, priorities, and strategies.”

Elaborating in person: “I go to meetings. I host meetings. A lot of people contact me. I try my best to listen to the community to decide where we send our officers. … If we ever see any pattern of theft, we meet with business owners or homeowners. We suggest bringing in S.F. SAFE.”

The Police Department contracts with SAFE (Safety Awareness for Everyone), a crime-prevention organization at 850 Bryant Street, police headquarters, providing advice, education, and community organizing.

Jaimerena conducts community meetings on the second Thursday of each month in the Northern Station, 1125 Fillmore Street; the next meeting is 6 p.m. on Thursday, April 13.

The captain gets “dynamite” cooperation from the community, especially the Marina, “probably the most engaged district in the city with the Police Department.” Northern cooperates with the Central District to the east and U.S. Park Police in the Presidio to the west.

Northern counts 100 patrol officers (plus 18 recruits training in patrol duties, 24 sergeants, and five lieutenants), the same as when Jaimerena took over. They include 16 women. Jaimerena increased foot beats from five to seven, assigning the additional two to Japantown, which lacked officers on foot (the Marina has two.)

HATE CRIME

On Feb. 17, crude swastikas and Nazi doctor Mengele’s name were found spray-painted on an apartment building on Jefferson Street’s 1900 block. Jaimerena called it a hate crime. The citywide Hate Crimes Unit was investigating.

He noted more protests than ever in the Northern District in 2016, mainly at City Hall and the Civic Center. Police made no mass arrests but handled minor offenses like ticketing traffic blockers. They’re prepared for frequent demonstrations.

Jaimerena, single, was born in San Francisco of Spanish immigrants. He earned a BA in science at California State University, Sacramento and became interested in law enforcement as a youngster, having “always looked up to police officers.”

He joined the Police Department in 1994, serving at the Tenderloin and Southern Stations in the robbery detail; as a patrol sergeant in the Northern District (2009–12); and as a lieutenant in the Gang Task Force just before becoming captain.

Jaimerena succeeded Capt. Greg McEachern, Northern District head since 2012. Promoted to commander, McEachern leads the department’s Investigations Bureau.

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Paul W. Lovinger is a freelance writer, editor, and author in San Francisco. He has been a newspaper reporter for over 20 years. E-mail: [email protected]

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